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Thread: Free Motion Quilting on a Singer 500

  1. #1
    Senior Member tate_elliott's Avatar
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    Free Motion Quilting on a Singer 500

    I've read over and over on this forum and in others that you can't FMQ on a 401, 403, 500, or 503 because of the horizontal bobbin. Luckily, I tried it before reading that you can't. I guess it's a case of being too dumb to know better, cause I seem to be doing okay. I'm not great, but okay. I'm planning to follow Leah Day's blog on practicing FMQ to get better. I'm not saying it's the greatest machine to FMQ on, because I don't have another machine to try. I suspect that someone wrote this once and people just repeat it without trying it themselves.

    Does anyone else use a 401, 403, 500, or 503 to FMQ? Please post if you do, I'd like to know.

    Here's Leah Day's blog, if you're interested - http://freemotionquilting.blogspot.com

    Oh, here's a photo of a practice sample of FMQ on my Rocketeer.

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    King of the Rocketeers!

  2. #2
    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    No one has ever said you "can't" FMQ on them. It's just that the stitch quality isn't great for FMQ. And if you look at your sample, the stitch quality and tension isn't right. You will probably have better success on a different machine. I have the 400 and the raised plate and horizontal bobbin aren't a good match for FMQ. I guess I don't understand what you mean by people who don't have the machine repeat it over and over.... I FMQ on many of my machines and the 400(and 500) series are my least favorite for this. Though they are great at general sewing and piecing.
    Last edited by Candace; 01-12-2012 at 04:01 PM.

  3. #3
    Senior Member tate_elliott's Avatar
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    Candace, thanks for posting. You're right, the tension IS off, but I thought that it was just me, I hadn't found the right balance. Although, I could have scanned the OTHER side. I'm glad to hear from someone who has actually used the 500 to FMQ.

    Let me clarify what I meant about "people who don't have the machine." When I've read posts about how you shouldn't FMQ with a 500, I got the feeling that the person wasn't speaking from experience, it was just something they'd read and was passing along.

    I read a post where someone wrote that the 500 was a bad machine for FMQing because she'd tried it and had bad results. But then she added that it was her first attempt at FMQing and hadn't yet tried any other machine. How could she know it was the machine and not simply her inexperience?

    I'll gladly admit that part of the reason I started this thread is because I love my 500 and don't like someone saying that it can't do something basic. If it can't FMQ well, then I can always fall back on straight-line quilting.

    Tate
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  4. #4
    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    Thanks for clarifying as I didn't understand what you were saying. My 401(the same as the 500 basically) does great straight stitching with a slant walking foot. I use it for bindings and it is a machine I won't part with! However, I wouldn't suggest anyone learning how to FMQ on it as it will probably lead to frustration. The dual features of it being a horizontal bobbin and the plate that lifts up, creates tension issues and skipped stitches during FMQ. If I had learned to FMQ on my 401, I would have cried and probably given up on it. There are quite a few vintage machines on the market that are lovely FMQ machines, but this isn't one of them. But, like I said, it is a great piecer and all around sewing machine. It has a very nice stitch quality and is very easy to fix and maintain. A real plus in my eyes.

  5. #5
    Super Member chairjogger's Avatar
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    as long as your feed dog is covered, or dropped.. use the "big foot" google it.. it is a dream.. and... Gloves ! the ones with the finger tipped in a rough plastic.. 8.00 for gloves. 24 or so dollars for the Big Foot. Local quilt store will have gloves and I have found the foot in a quilt store once... worth it ! put music on or hum the same song and use your shoulders not your wrists !

    Practice as you have.. you can do it !! make sure the tension is right so the thread does not break.. once you have the tension, write it down on the example that pleases you most to KEEP.....will always remind you the setting them....

    you CAN do this.. on any machine as long as feed dogs can have a cover plate and I use the big foot.. no bare needle.. whooly cow.. a problem all the way around.. use a darning foot if you have one.. that is ok.. but the big plastic chunky thing.. big foot will hold fabric down and give room to see what you are doing under your needle..

    good luck !

    Ell

    No, I don't own stock in Big foot, nor sell or have anything to do with the product mentioned.. Just would be lost without it !
    Last edited by chairjogger; 01-12-2012 at 09:19 PM.
    Sometimes you just have to sit in a chair and jog in order to get anywhere.
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  6. #6
    Super Member Charlee's Avatar
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    I don't like a horizontal bobbin for FMQ either. I have nothing but problems with the tension, and with my other machines, it's just not worth the headache.
    As much as I love my 201-2, it's convinced me that I don't even want to try on my 99, 66, 403, or 500A...
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  7. #7
    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chairjogger View Post
    as long as your feed dog is covered, or dropped.. use the "big foot" google it.. it is a dream.. and... Gloves ! the ones with the finger tipped in a rough plastic.. 8.00 for gloves. 24 or so dollars for the Big Foot. Local quilt store will have gloves and I have found the foot in a quilt store once... worth it ! put music on or hum the same song and use your shoulders not your wrists !

    Practice as you have.. you can do it !! make sure the tension is right so the thread does not break.. once you have the tension, write it down on the example that pleases you most to KEEP.....will always remind you the setting them....

    you CAN do this.. on any machine as long as feed dogs can have a cover plate and I use the big foot.. no bare needle.. whooly cow.. a problem all the way around.. use a darning foot if you have one.. that is ok.. but the big plastic chunky thing.. big foot will hold fabric down and give room to see what you are doing under your needle..

    good luck !

    Ell

    No, I don't own stock in Big foot, nor sell or have anything to do with the product mentioned.. Just would be lost without it !

    This machine has a raised plate, not a cover plate and is part of the problem. The foot really doesn't have much to do with it, in this instance.

  8. #8
    Senior Member tate_elliott's Avatar
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    Chairjogger, you don't say whether or not you are referring to using a Slant with a horizontal bobbin or not. That's my real question here.

    By the way, I don't raise my plate, I set the feed dogs to "zero." They just go up and down. I use a darning foot. And dishwashing gloves.

    Tate
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    Member 00maggie's Avatar
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    If my FMQ looked half as good as yours, I would think I had a chance of accomplishing it...but it doesn't. Oh, I have a 500A...was just about to practice FMQ on it. After that I may try on one of my Singer 301 machines. In a previous trial I had the best luck with my mocha 301. My problem with FMQ is I want to cross lines. My brain just doesn't connect with the "don't cross lines" mentality.
    Grammy Dorthy
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  10. #10
    Super Member Mitch's mom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 00maggie View Post
    If my FMQ looked half as good as yours, I would think I had a chance of accomplishing it...but it doesn't. Oh, I have a 500A...was just about to practice FMQ on it. After that I may try on one of my Singer 301 machines. In a previous trial I had the best luck with my mocha 301. My problem with FMQ is I want to cross lines. My brain just doesn't connect with the "don't cross lines" mentality.
    You can cross lines! If you are stippling you shouldn't, but how would you make loops or swirls or feathers if you can't cross lines. Get your mocha 301 out and have at it girl! The stippling pattern is not the easiest way to start FMQ, there are lots of other styles to practice on - strictly my opinion. It should be relaxing and fun not fear inducing!
    Last edited by Mitch's mom; 11-28-2013 at 08:48 AM. Reason: spelling

  11. #11
    Super Member mlmack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tate_elliott View Post
    Chairjogger, you don't say whether or not you are referring to using a Slant with a horizontal bobbin or not. That's my real question here.

    By the way, I don't raise my plate, I set the feed dogs to "zero." They just go up and down. I use a darning foot. And dishwashing gloves.

    Tate
    From what I gather, the horizontal bobbin arrangement is the issue, due to the 90-degree turn in the thread path.
    Mark

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    I FMQ on my 500A, and did several quilts before I read this thread. It did take a while before I got everything set up right, but now I have no issues. I set the foot pressure to 4, tension at 5 and 1/2, use 100/16 needle. The feed plate is raised and the stitch length is set to "fine". I prefer slightly longer stitches in my quilting so I do not "race", just take my time. The hardest thing was to get my tension right. I can rip out stitches pretty good now! I keep this machine set up for quilting only, and do my piecing on the Kenmore Rotary.

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    I went back and looked at your sample...my stitches looked like that until I increased the tension. Then I had a problem with the thread breaking, so I switched to 100/16 needles and that has eliminated the breakage, and my stitches are looking good. Will try to post a picture tomorrow.

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    Super Member irishrose's Avatar
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    I normally FMQ with my 301, but tried my 404 because that was the machine available at the time. The tension was perfect when it straight stitched, but the machine wouldn't maintain the correct tension for FMQ. I had to remove it all and redo it on a 301, so it's vertical bobbin for me.

  15. #15
    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    Not all horizontal bobbin machines are terrible at FMQing. But, the 500 and 401 series are..

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    Super Member ThayerRags's Avatar
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    My wife has done FMQ on several quilts using her Singer 401A. It was the machine that she used when she began learning how to FMQ. She has done it both with the needle plate up and the plate down, and didn’t notice much difference one way or the other. She set her stitch length on zero, used a darning foot, size 11 needle, Maxi-Lock serger thread (Tex27), and used her straight stitch needle plate. The machine was mounted in a Singer 430 Profile 3-way Sewing Desk (43 1/4" x 37 1/2" working surface), so she had plenty of room and support. She had good luck with it.

    Then I set her up a Singer 96-40 industrial (20"x48" top), but it gave her fits. I had the feed dogs removed and a solid needle plate (no feed dog slots) on it, but I was slow in getting her a good darning foot for it. She broke a couple of cheap cheesy ones that I had rigged up. It was mounted in a treadle stand with a small electric motor for temporary power, and the treadle plate was in her way to get into a comfortable position to use her electric foot control. By the time I got a good darning foot for it, she had moved on to my Singer 301A mounted in the large cabinet that her 401A had been in, and she likes it best. I’m planning on setting the 96-40 up as a treadle sometime to see how she gets along with it that way. She didn’t want to treadle while she’d learned to FMQ, and I just haven’t gotten it set back up again for her.

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    Sample of quilting with the 500A
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    Is this true - stippling isn't the easiest pattern to learn??!!! That's what I've been trying to do on my brand new expensive Bernina with the BSR, and I'm just glad the quilt has a lot of black in it! I did better on my Mom's old Singer (don't know which one) with a bare needle and the stitch length set to zero! Please, what is an easy pattern to learn?

  19. #19
    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bemer View Post
    Sample of quilting with the 500A
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    It's very hard to see any issues or lack thereof from your photos. What may be acceptable for you, may not be for me-and vice versa. I've FMQ'ed on many 500 and 401 series machines and they are just way to fussy and the stitch quality is much better in other machines.

  20. #20
    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MFord View Post
    Is this true - stippling isn't the easiest pattern to learn??!!! That's what I've been trying to do on my brand new expensive Bernina with the BSR, and I'm just glad the quilt has a lot of black in it! I did better on my Mom's old Singer (don't know which one) with a bare needle and the stitch length set to zero! Please, what is an easy pattern to learn?

    Practice makes perfect and you have to start somewhere.

  21. #21
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    I like the meandering- I cross over if I want to, or need to (if I box myself in). The stippling is fun too. I prefer space around the quilting - I like the puffiness reminiscent of hand quilting. And the flowers were fun too. I used paper copies to quilt over, next time I will not use regular paper - it was a real pain removing it because I use larger stitches. These quilts are labors of love, and they are not perfect. But I was please with my work. The best guidance I can give you is be patient. I found that I did better when I slowed down a bit. The top pic was my 1st one , the bottom was next and the middle pic was the last one I did. You'll find what works for you.

  22. #22
    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    I dug out my 500 again today. I put on the original darning foot and had to mess with it for about 20 mins before it FMQ'ed adequately. I put the pressure to 0(D ) and my tension had to be cranked to 6. The only way I could get a decent stitch was to keep the feed dog plate at normal sewing height, and not raised. This means the feed dogs are up which is no big deal. So, I will revise my opinion from it FMQS terribly to it's o.k.... Still not my favorite in stitch quality and the ease of quilting, but it wasn't as horrible as I remembered. For some reason I think my 500 does a better job than my 401, which really doesn't make sense but there you go.

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    Candace, when comparing the 500A straight stitch with my Kenmore Rotary, I much prefer the Kenmore. Do you think the ZZ capability of the 500 is the cause of our poorer quality of FMQ stitching? Maybe after the holidays I will need to see how the Kenmore handles FMQ.

  24. #24
    Super Member Candace's Avatar
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    Bemer, I have many ZZ capable machines that do a great job of FMQing. The problem lies in the design of the 401/500 machines with the plate that raises and lowers and the thread path of the horizontal bobbin assembly. I have FMQ'ed on several different rotary machines and wasn't happy with the results. I've never tried a Kenmore Rotary, however. Maybe you'll have a better outcome.

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